Back to School with STYLE: Backpack Superlatives


Organizing by Style
I’m feeling a little guilty about last week’s post. I mean, it was a lot of work. I actually toyed with putting this week’s post first, but for most kids, the hands-on experience of what works and what doesn’t is much more useful than a checklist, which is why I put you and your child through the backpack deconstruction. Seeing the default habits in action is step #1 in knowing what to buy (and what not to buy) for this year.

Step #2? The Backpack Superlatives. When it comes to backpacks, a simple checklist just isn’t realistic. Unlike other containers, backpacks just don’t come in that many options. And even though organizing by STYLE is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor, there’s tremendous overlap from one style to the next.

And so, in the spirit of yearbook ballots everywhere, and in an effort to simplify this process, I bring you The Backpack Superlatives. With your child’s styles in mind, along with lessons learned from last week’s endeavors, use the suggestions below to narrow the search.


Most likely to use all those little pockets: Kids with the I love stuff personal style. These little collectors will find goodies to put in every nook and cranny, and, depending on their organizational style, they may remember where every last little treasure is, too.

Least likely to benefit from all those little pockets: Kids with the I know I put it somewhere organizational style. A specific pocket will be the perfect place to store something in the moment, but when it’s time to retrieve things, these kiddos struggle to remember which thing is in which pocket. For your sake and theirs, keep the pockets to a minimum. The fewer places they have to search, the more time they’ll save.

Most likely to bring home smashed papers, regardless of the system they set up: Kids with the cram and jam organizational style. Their best bet is one big, open space — the smaller the subdivisions, the more wrinkled the papers. If you can get these kiddos to put all their papers inside one file folder (no pockets) or clip them to a clipboard, you might minimize the damage.

Most likely to benefit from labels and clear pockets: Kids with the I need to see it personal style. Out of sight is out of mind for these kiddos, so anything that enables them to see things that have been put away is a great assist. Roomy backpacks help, too — they can peek inside and see what’s there. (The I know I put it somewhere organizational style is a close runner-up for this category).

Most likely to need subdivisions or more than one backpack: Kids with the I love to be busy personal style. These kids often do best when things are organized by activity, and they may excel at using multiple folders and/or containers to separate things they need for one activity from things they need for another.

Most likely to use a messenger bag: Kids with the drop and run organizational style. Like their cram and jam counterparts, they need one-step, one-stop storage. The easier it is to put it away, the more likely it is to get there.

One last thought before you go shopping. Keep in mind that containers (and backpacks qualify as containers) have three attributes: form, function and style. While all backpacks serve the same function, they’re not all created equal in kids’ eyes. Giving your kids some leeway on the form (size and physical attributes) and style (aesthetics) will increase the likelihood they’ll put that backpack to use.

That said, we’ve all played the “they loved it in the store and ignored it at home” game at least once, so before they take home that dream backpack, have them tell you what’s going where. Their styles are your trump card.

Not to mention the fact that you’re paying for the backpack.

For more on the intersection of the backpacks and the styles, click here.

See all our Back to School with STYLE posts.

Copyright 2015 Lisa Hess
Logo background image: “Unageek color” by Unageek (2013) via Morguefile. Text added in Canva. Yearbook graphic from


About Author

Lisa Lawmaster Hess has contributed articles to local, national and online publications, and is a blogger at The Porch Swing Chronicles, The Susquehanna Writers and here at She is the author of two non-fiction books (Acting Assertively and Diverse Divorce) and two novels, Casting the First Stone and Chasing a Second Chance. A retired elementary school counselor, Lisa is a lecturer in psychology at York College and enjoys singing with the contemporary choir at her church.


  1. Kid Cramandjam! You’re funny!

    A duffel sounds like a great plan! I just wrote about backpacks and organizational styles today at the Organizing By STYLE blog, and you’re right on the money with the “deep and dark.” Anything he can do to make things stand out in the darkness (zip-top plastic bags, brightly colored storage) can be helpful (fluorescent tape, anyone??). Regular dumping and purging helps, too, but can be tough if you have an I love to be busy/Kid Cramandjam.

    • Yes, he loves to be busy, too.
      He likes to put his lunchbox IN the backpack so we need space for that too–another reason I think a duffel will work better. But will he go for it? Will I need to sweeten the deal by offering a duffel with a team logo on it? 😉

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